Like Agboola Ajayi, like Lucky Aiyedatiwa, it’s no longer at ease in Ondo State, the only oil-producing State in Southwest, as Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu is enmeshed in another political battle ahead of 2024 governorship election.
BDSUNDAY recalls that the same political scenario played out four years ago when Governor Akeredolu was struggling to make the second term as governor of Ondo State; he had to battle Agboola Ajayi over the governorship ambition.
In the buil-up to the 2020 governorship election in Ondo, Akeredolu ditched Ajayi, who is from riverine area of Ondo South Senatorial District and replaced him with Lucky Aiyedatiwa, another man from Ondo South as his deputy as a political strategy to win not only in Ese Odo Local government where Ajayi hails from, but also in the entire six local government areas that make up the Ondo South Senatorial District.
Ajayi later left the All Progressives Congress (APC) for Governor Akeredolu and then new bride, Aiyedatiwa to join Zenith Labour Party (ZLP) where contested governorship poll against incumbent Governor Akeredolu, but lost to the latter.
But, in what looks like a return match in Ondo, Governor Akeredolu was reportedly supporting impeachment of his deputy, Aiyedatiwa through the Ondo State House of Assembly over alleged financial misappropriation bordering on the approval of alleged N300 million for the purchase of bulletproof SUV for himself. A development that occurred while Aiyedatiwa was acting as Ondo State governor, following the medical vacation of Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu in Germany.
The impeachment process of the Ondo State deputy governor, Lucky Aiyedatiwa by the State House of Assembly, is trending in the State ahead of 2024 gubernatorial poll as some stakeholders and people of the State have already advised the embattled deputy governor to honourably resign instead of being impeached. But, some politicians too were of the opinion that the removal of Lucky Aiyedatiwa would affect Governor Akeredolu’s succession plan as people of Ondo South Senatorial District are beginning to lose interest in him.
It should be noted that the since return of Governor Akeredolu to the country after his three-month medical leave abroad, things have not been well with his deputy as Governor Akeredolu was said to be moving against perceived political enemies who were alleged to be making political gains from his ill-health by sacking all the media aides attached to Aiyedatiwa.
BDSUNDAY gathered that the return of Governor Akeredolu after his medical leave abroad didn’t go down well with some politicians and a particular caucus in the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), as the sudden return was said have destabilised the alleged political plan to unseat the governor due to ill health and ensure that Governor Akeredolu doesn’t have an anointed successor in 2024.
Some of them, including the deputy governor, was alleged to have already drawn up political plans to capitalize on the ill health of Mr Governor to manoeuvre their ways and take vantage position in the 2024 governorship election, against the interest of the Governor, with a thought that it was all over for Akeredolu to return to the Office, having been rumoured to have been incapacitated and unfit to rule the State again.
Aiyedatiwa, Deputy Governor; Oludunni Odu, Secretary to the State Government and some members of the Akeredolu’s cabinet were said to have been aspiring to contest for the governorship election next year. Consequently, the polity is being heated up in such a way that the gladiators perceived one another as enemies, despite being a member of the same political party.
They were also alleged to have been monitoring the public and private activities of one another, back bitting each other and reporting to their boss who is loyal and who is not loyal.
A source within the Akeredolu’s cabinet who preferred anonymity told BusinessDay that day-to-day account of their loyality and disloyalty of those that are aspiring for the governorship position was being reported to the Governor.
However, Aiyedatiwa denied all the allegations of disloyalty against him and described all the allegations against him as the handiwork of his political detractors, faceless groups and group of individuals in the State, who are out to soil his image and pull him down politically.
Despite the denial, the crisis between Aiyedatiwa and his boss took another dimension few days ago as the State House of Assembly said it had commenced an investigation on the allegations of financial misappropriation and gross misconduct leveled against the Deputy Governor.
The State House of Assembly declared its unequivocal position to examine all the allegations leveled against the Deputy Governor objectively, even at a time when Olamide Oladiji, the Speaker of Ondo State House of Assembly had dismissed the allegation that Governor Akeredolu was instigating the process of Aiyedatiwa’s impeachment.
Olatunji Oshati, the Chairman, House Committee on Information, who spoke on behalf of his co-lawmakers in a press statement made available to journalists on the position of the Assembly over the impeachment plot on the Deputy Governor, Aiyedatiwa, said; “We wish to declare, unequivocally, that the entire process remains within the realm of allegations.
“We are committed to examining these allegations objectively. Our primary responsibility is to uphold the integrity of our beloved state and foster accountability and transparency, even at the highest levels of government.
“We find it necessary to address some misconceptions regarding the allegation letter served on the Deputy Governor of Ondo State, Hon. Lucky Aiyedatiwa. It is crucial that our people understand that an allegation letter does not equate to an impeachment verdict.
“Indeed, the allegation letter served to the Deputy Governor marks the initiation of the impeachment proceedings. However, it’s essential to remember that this is a procedure rooted in due process, not a hastily conducted impeachment. We are conscious of the integrity of our present assembly and will not falter in our constitutional responsibilities to our constituents.
“Consequently, we urge our constituents to refrain from making premature judgments. Neither the Deputy Governor nor the Governor are immune to legislative actions. The allegation letter has been served, and Mr. Deputy Governor has the full right to defend himself. Rest assured, we are committed to following due process and will do so diligently.”
Another twist to the impeachment process which is about to start, is the negative disposition of Abayomi Akinruntan, Deputy Speaker, who is also from the same place with the Deputy Governor. The Deputy Speaker, Akinruntan, is said to be in support of Aiyedatiwa’s impeachment, and it’s belived in the political circle in Ondo State that some political forces are using the Deputy Speaker ahead of 2024 governorship election.
Meanwhile, some stakeholders in the State believe the Deputy Governor, who hails from Obe-Nla, an oil-rich community in Ilaje Local Government Area of the State, has no political structure even from his own Ilaje Local Government Area, even as the Southern Senatorial District that may like produce the next Governor.
Politicians are now comparing of Lucky Aiyedatiwa with Agboola Ajayi, the former Deputy Governor, who suffered same fate in the hands of Governor Akeredolu with strong political conclusions that Ajayi or other political bigwigs from Ondo South Senatorial District might be the likely successor of Governor Akeredolu as different political groups from the zone are said to be teaming up ahead of 2024 governorship election to produce the State Governor.
While some stakeholders from Ilaje, the Local Government Area of the Deputy Governor, said; “Ondo State including Ilajes stood by Governor Akeredolu during his challenging moments, offering prayers and unwavering support. Now, it is his turn to repay this trust with effective governance by offering dividends of democracy to the people.
“Aketi (Governor Akeredolu) needs to recognize that the shadowy figures in his government, if allowed to stall the progress of the State, may escape unscathed while his legacy suffers.
“To the Ondo APC Chairman, Speaker and members of the Assembly, remember that your names and reputations are at stake if the impeachment is indeed the Governor’s call, let him come to the public and defend his decision confidently and boldly.
“Otherwise, let Aiyedatiwa breathe and let Ondo State be peaceful and restful. Whoever tears the garment of honour, should be ready to wear a mass of disgrace”, some leaders of political movement in Ilaje, who spoke with BDSUNDAY, said.
With the look of things, politically in Ondo State now, the people of riverine areas, covering the six Local Government Areas that form Ondo South Senatorial District are suffering from double jeopardy – firstly, they felt vilified and disrespected by Governor Akeredolu-led APC Government for ditching their sons, having used and dumped them at eleventh hour.
Secondly, they are being marginalised with the uneven distribution of common wealth in the State as oil-producing areas, tagged as the goose that lays the golden eggs, are left undeveloped despite crude oil fund coming to the State from the Federation Accounts.
“It’s crystal clear that Governor Akeredolu, a man from Owo in Ondo North Senatorial District, a zone which is not contributing resources as we do in riverine areas, just used us and dumped us. The way and manner, he treated our brothers – Agboola Ajayi and Lucky Aiyedatiwa show that we are disrespected by the Governor.
“Our areas have been so exposed to ocean surge due to crude oil exploitation, our water is not potable, our farmlands are not good for farming any more, the roads are bad and it seems we don’t enjoy anything from Akeredolu’s Government in Ondo, it’s better to put out sons and daughters forward for Governor in 2024”, a senior politician from Igbokoda told BusinessDay.